December 22 2013 Latest news:
By Steven Russell
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Ever watched a darts match and wondered what the commentator was on about – like why a score of 26 was called ‘bed and breakfast’? Let Bobby Dazzler translate . . . Steven Russell reports
DARTS is like Marmite: you either love it to death or you’d happily banish the whole shebang to the moon on a one-way ticket. For every fan tickled by the showmanship, there’s a sporting purist sniffy about the hype and the playing to the gallery. Then there’s the banter and chat: sing-songy to the ears of those who find it melodious; discordant, impenetrable and naff for those desiring intelligent analysis.
Essex’s Bobby George – who became the Liberace of televised darts after making grand entrances in sequinned shirt and cape to Queen’s We Are The Champions and holding a candelabrum for good measure – loves the lingo. A choice turn of phrase – earthy and everyday, rather than pretentious – is meat and potatoes to his East End instincts. Why call a lucky shot a fluke – so dull and predictable – when you can add a bit of musicality with the rhyming slang of “iron duke”?
Bobby – who lives near Ardleigh, in an 18-bedroom house he built himself – is happy to share the language with us and pull it to bits so the fog clears.
His new book – Scoring for Show, Doubles for Dough – is essentially an A to Z of colourful darts words and phrases (and a good few stories) garnered during his years on the exhibition circuit.
The sport should always be about entertainment, he reckons, and part of the fun is when players use colourful words to brighten a game.
Bobby joined forces with historian Dr Patrick Chaplin, known as The Professor and Dr Darts – explaining his co-author was on board to deal with all the big words “and grammatical stuff”.
They sat down at George Hall and went through all the examples of darts lingo they’d picked up: “him during his years of boring research in libraries and archives up and down the country and me on the exciting worldwide darts exhibition circuit. Between us we’ve come up with the biggest darts dictionary ever to be published anywhere on the planet”.
The seeds were planted by a feature he did with the BBC during the World Professional Darts Championship three years ago. Pundit Bobby would say something like “He’s got too much trap before he’s done the biz” and then presenter Ray Stubbs would look at the camera and translate with a straight face. “Robert means that the player is making rash and inappropriate utterances before he has actually achieved anything.”
The book is in similar vein.
Chat over. Time to polish some gems . . .
Scoring for Show, Doubles for Dough – Bobby George’s Darts Lingo is from Clacton on Sea-based Apex Publishing; £9.99
Some darts-related Cockney rhyming slang
Beehives: two fives
Big Ben: ten
Pair of plates: double eight
No soap: no hope
A tasty 10 from Bobby’s Darts Lingo list to whet the appetite
Bag o’ nails: “Darts commentator Sid Waddell reckons he first heard this expression back in 1974 when Cliff Inglis won the World Masters. It usually means that a player who threw a good score (say 140) has followed it in his next three darts with a low score (say 26).”
Bed and breakfast: A score of 26 with three darts – a single 20, single five and a single one. “The expression is based on the price of bed and breakfast in England in the early part of the twentieth century, when b&b cost two shillings and sixpence. That’s old money and was spelt 2s 6d: about 13 pence in today’s money.
“According to his research, depending on the quality of the bed and breakfast, The Professor dates this term roughly to just before the Great War.”
Blacking back! “Dating back to at least the 1920s, ‘Blacking back!’ was shouted at any player whose toes were over the oche line. ‘Blacking’ was a forerunner of boot polish.”
Fish shop: Twenty-two. “Comes from fish ’n’ chip customers on the way home from the pub asking for ‘two and two’, that is two pieces of fish and two portions of chips. This fishy phrase then found its way back into the pub and into darts lingo.”
Injuns: “Funnily enough this is an English darts phrase, not American, and means that when three darts thrown consecutively land in the same single, double or treble, spectators behind the player shout ‘Injuns!’” Being close together apparently makes the darts look like the headdress of a Native American Red Indian. “This word has got to be pre-tungsten and pre-modern flights as I’ve looked at three of my darts together and they don’t look like a headdress at all. However, it must have looked much better with darts with feather flights.”
Puncture: “This is another phrase for missing the dartboard entirely. (Like ‘Off the Island’.) In the good old days, when a pub landlord couldn’t afford any expensive arty-farty wooden dartboard cabinets and surrounds, a rubber tyre, cut in half, was used to protect the wall. So, if a player was so bad that he missed the dartboard, his dart would hit the tyre and fall to the ground. This was known as a puncture. Also collected as Michelin, Goodyear etc etc.”
Reuters: “A bit subtle, this.” The expression means having a non-scoring dart up against the wire. Reuters was the news agency that made its name by quickly transmitting news by “wire”, using the telegraph line.
Sloppy sailor: A phrase first recorded by Leighton Rees (the first Embassy World Professional Darts Champion). “This is a reference to a dart that has fallen from the dartboard or bounced out. As Leighton wrote: ‘Like a sloppy sailor, always on the deck.’ Nice one.”
Trombones: Seventy-six. “Bingo expression which comes from the musical The Music Man and in particular the popular song Seventy-six Trombones that happened to lead the parade, sung by old whassiname.”
While-Shepherds-Watched: A gem recorded in Gloucestershire by writer TH White. “This phrase meant the number 62 ‘because the hymn of that name is numbered thus in the local hymn-book’.”
Mr Glitter: Bobby George in brief
Born just after the war
Is a former builder who worked on the Victoria underground line
Married to Marie
Has two sons: Robert and Richard
Didn’t begin playing darts until age of 30
In 1976 he won the first singles event he entered
Went on to win the Essex Masters for three years on the trot
First major title was the North American Open in 1978
Won, twice, the News of the World Individual Darts Championship
Has represented England 26 times
First appearance in a sequinned shirt, and with candelabrum, came in final of 1980 world championship, against Eric Bristow
1981: collapsed during tournament in Middlesbrough when spleen burst and he nearly bled to death
1994: Hurt back during match at world championships but still reached final, where he wore a steel corset. It all proved a handicap too far, however
A few weeks later he discovered he had actually broken his back! Bobby had eight titanium screws inserted in the base of his spine
1999: Became a BBC TV presenter at the Lakeside World Professional Darts Championship. Co-presents, usually, with Ray Stubbs
Is a passionate angler. George Hall, his home at Ardleigh, has three fishing lakes open to the public and available for corporate entertaining
Bobby has book-signing sessions at Waterstone’s stores: Chelmsford High Street: Thursday, June 30, 12noon
Colchester High Street: Saturday, July 9, 12noon
Bury St Edmunds Butter Market: Wednesday, July 13, 11am
Dr Darts: Patrick Chaplin
Lives at Maldon
Has been researching darts for more than 25 years
A fan of the sport since the age of 12
2006: awarded a PhD by Anglia Ruskin University for his dissertation ‘Darts in England 1900-1939 – A social history’
It followed 10 years of self-funded part-time postgraduate research